On Friday we left our desks and BIM models at LDA Partners and instead took architecture, construction, engineering, and design (ACED) back to school; we took these disciplines to students grades K-12. Why would we do such a thing? Who knows, but it was amazing!

What happens when you ask 3rd - 5th graders to build with cardboard, newspaper and sticks? You get a box city that takes over a playground, creativity emerges, and ingenuity takes hold when all of the glue, tape and staples are gone, teamwork comes naturally, and pride ensues. You also get spaghetti-marshmallow towers that can’t be toppled by the earthquake shake-table challenge! And out of newspaper, staples and determination; you get geodesic domes, pyramids, rockets and bragging rights.

Our youngest students embarked on a shape treasure hunt around campus, they returned to their classes with the bounty they discovered all around them. They made a city out of paper complete with skyscrapers, houses, people, planes, trains and automobiles. Together they decide to give homage to their school and named the town "El Dorado". Out on the playground they selected and tested their paper airplanes. The competition and energy continued through recess.

The middle school students carried home perfect eggs in zip-lock bags like trophies, after launching their “protective egg containers” off the play-structure. They listened with enthusiasm to “talks” provided by experts in the fields of architecture, engineering and construction which were as much about a career and a path as they were about life and stumbles along the way. Excited to be off campus, students truly saw for the first time houses that they pass daily on the way to school. Tour guides pointed out gems from every historic period around every corner, proving that “the real voyage of discovery consist not in seeking new landscapes but having new eyes.” (Marcel Proust)

High school students from eight different campuses unloaded from school buses.  For some this was the first time they had stepped foot in Downtown Stockton. They learned about Downtown Stockton, old and new; from the construction-site of the new 14-story courthouse to the storefronts that reveal Stockton’s rich history and finally landing inside the historic Fox Theater and snapping a photo for fans on Instagram. Along the waterfront students took a hands-on crash-course in surveying. They gained a new set of vocabulary to describe the built environment, through the design principles workshop. And while watching a live robotics navigation demonstration they were wowed by what could be their next inter-high-school challenge. With all of these hands-on activities, we found a bit of time to watch the film “If You Build It” whose story was inspiring and taught lessons in what it means to be truly generous and what our youth are capable of achieving.

This was the mission of the ACED festival "To bring awareness to students and the community about the built environment, by demonstrating though our events the value of architecture, good design and the interaction between: design, engineering and construction." I would say these students 'ACED it'.

It goes without saying that “one cannot do things alone”… hats off to all of the volunteers, sponsors and donors: AIA Sierra Valley, San Joaquin County Office of Educations, Stockton Unified School District, Lincoln Unified School District, San Joaquin Delta Community College, The Stockton Builders’ Exchange, Ray Morgan Company, Grainger, Architechnica, Haggerty Construction, Justin Capp Structural Engineers, Turner Construction, Visit Stockton, Raley’s, The Stockton Emergency Food Bank, SF Market, and S-Mart Foods.